After dropping three of their last four games, the Gator men’s basketball team is in desperate need of a win. However, a win tonight will not come easy. The No. 6 Tennessee Volunteers head to Gainesville looking to continue their hot streak.
Tennessee has won the last four matchups against the Gators, dating back to the 2017-18 season. Florida is 1-5 against the Volunteers under Mike White.
Florida is entering tonight’s game coming off a 72-69 loss at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs dominated inside the paint and with an extremely physical and outstanding defensive team like Tennessee coming to town, the Gators need to clean up their game in the paint.
In the last four games, the Gators have failed to reach over 71 points, which won’t fly against the Volunteers. Tennessee’s defense has held eight opponents to 61 points or less, including two SEC opponents to 54 points or less.
Although Tennessee was shown up at home against Alabama, their next three games proved what their defense is capable of. John Fulkerson is leading the team in rebounds with 6.4 a game, while also going for almost 12 points a game.
The Volunteers also lead the league in both offensive and defensive turnover efficiency in SEC play. They also have six, nearly seven, players averaging at least three rebounds per game.
Forward Yves Pons is another huge defensive presence for Tennessee, claiming the title of 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He’s extremely versatile on defense for Tennessee, guarding all five positions and leading the SEC in blocked shots.
These two teams couldn’t have a more different pace of play. The Gators prefer a faster pace, although they have had consistency problems throughout the season. However, they do continue to shoot well from behind the arc, averaging 37% in conference play.
Tennessee’s offensive has more of a slow and steady feel. Their pace can make it difficult for opponents to overcome early deficits, so the Gators need to get going right away.
What Needs to Change
While the Gators do rely heavily on the three, in Florida’s two roughest losses of the year to Alabama and Kentucky, their two-point game all but disappeared. During those two games, Florida shot just 35.7% from inside the arc.
Offensive rebounding is another huge issue for the Gators. They rank 253rd in limiting second-chance opportunities for opponents. In their most recent loss, Mississippi State grabbed 15 offensive rebounds to pick up the win. Kentucky and Alabama had 15 and 13 respectively.
However, this is another big area for Tennessee, ranking 60th for offensive rebounding percentage. The Volunteers have two players that have over 20 offensive rebounds in Fulkerson and Josiah-Jordan James on the season.
How to Watch
The Gators will welcome the Volunteers to Gainesville tonight for a 7 p.m. tipoff. TV coverage can be found on ESPN.